Books we love…

In our continual commemoration of LGBT+ History Month, Fiona from Brompton Library is reviewing Real Life by Brandon Taylor… 

Real Life by Brandon Taylor

Over to Fiona… 

This novel is set on a university campus and the story of Wallace, a young, black man studying on scholarship.  Set over a few days, what happens proves to be pivotal for Wallace.  The novel includes elements typical of classic, campus novels such as Catcher in the Rye, including coming of age, friendship, loneliness and isolation, and growing up.  While it has these very classic elements, it is also very subjective and specific to the central character’s experience.  We get to understand what it’s like for a young, gay, working-class, black male to be in the world now – we get to see the world through Wallace’s eyes. 

It’s a very readable novel, engaging and emotionally raw which looks at issues, such as racism, in the eye. Taylor paints each scene carefully, and at the same time, the writing has an intensity and an energy not unlike the calm before a storm and I read it in a couple of sittings.

It is both classic and current – students who spend every hour they can get studying and striving to succeed seems very of today.  At times very painful, and sometimes ironic, with an ambiguous ending that leaves us wondering about Wallace’s future, it’s a powerful novel that packs a punch or two. 

This book is available in our library using our Select and Collect service!

You can also borrow an e-copy from our Cloud Library here: ,all you need is your RBKC library card. 

Not a member?  No problem!  It’s quick and easy to join, register online here:$N/ILSWS_DEFAULT/true

Books we love…

This Week’s Book of the Week is Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Never Let Me Go – Kazuo Ishiguro

Never Let Me Go is the brave and fantastical story by British Novelist Kazuo Ishiguro. Set in a backdrop of Dystopian 1990s London, we meet three curious and challenging students; Cathy, Ruth and Tommy. They are seemingly ordinary citizens; but have been bred to “provide” and “donate” themselves to the rest of society, and to certain extents quite fatally. For this is a world where Ruth and her peers aren’t just students, but human clones in a world where cloning is state-sanctioned. The three students live their unconventional lives trying to forge happiness out of the complexities of adolescence, human biology and social injustice. Ishiguro writes this book with a delicate level of despair but touches thoughtfully around issues around LGBTQ+, ideas of community and concepts around scientific progress. An elegantly written story with depth and intrigue. Well worth a read! 

Shortlisted for the 2005 Booker Prize, the 2006 Arthur C. Clarke Award and for the 2005 National Book Critics Circle Award! Also a Major Motion Picture! 

Download this book today with your library card at: 

You can also join our virtual book club this Friday at 2.30pm to discuss Redhead by the Side of the Road. Click here to book your ticket!  

If you have read Never Let Me Go, let us know what you think in the comments! 

Books we love…

This week, Sara will be reviewing Bridget Collins’ 2018 novel- The Binding. A tender and delicate tale covering LGBTQ+ issues throughout history as well as touching upon the supernatural…. 

Over to Sara to tell us more! 

The Binding, by Bridget Collins

I saw this book in the windows of Waterstones in Victoria Street and was captivated by its beautiful book cover. After reading the short review beside it, I knew I had to read it.  

Well, fellow bookworms, kick off your shoes, get luxuriously comfortable, pour yourself a drink and immerse yourself in a wonderful tale of imagination, history and love! 

The Binding is told in the first person and follows the main character, Emmett Farmer. Apprenticed to a book binder in a world where books are forbidden, Emmett discovers that memories have been sealed away within the pages of books. This enables people to forget what they have done or what has happened in their pasts. Struggling with the moral implications of this, The Binding follows Emmett’s journey in this magical and imaginative tale. 

I don’t want to tell you much more because you need to enjoy it for yourself. The characters in the book are strong and well rounded, and a love story is at the heart of its core. 

If Sara’s 5* review has you convinced, pick up The Binding today at one of our branches. For a full list of our locations and opening times, please click here

You can also download this book free today on cloud library by following the link here

Top Ten Most Requested Books from 2020

Here is our list of the Top Ten Most Requested Books from 2020 from both Westminster Libraries and Kensington and Chelsea Libraries. It has been fascinating to see what all of our users have been borrowing and we thought you might too.

We also found it interesting that “A Promised Land” by Barack Obama, which is ninth on this list, is at currently the most requested book so far in 2021 which is great news for non- fiction and its increasing popularity.

So here is our list of “Ten most requested books of 2020”.


“Trio : a novel” written by William Boyd (Viking)

1968, on a film set in Brighton, three characters’ lives are explored during this tumultuous time. A fascinating novel about lives spiralling out of control and the measures required to right them.


“A Promised Land written” by Barack Obama (Viking)

“A Promised Land written” by Barack Obama (Viking)

In this highly anticipated first volume of his presidential memoirs, Barack Obama relates his journey from a young man in search of his identity to the highest office in the free world.  We gain insight to his experiences of domestic and international politics. What went on behind the closed doors of the Oval office, White House Situation Room and beyond. How being the first President of the United States of America of African – American descent and the expectations that went alongside and more.

An extraordinary, intimate and introspective account from the president who allowed us to believe in the power of democracy.


“Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” written by J.K.Rowling (Bloomsbury)

Set during Harry Potter’s sixth year at Hogwarts, it explores the past of his nemesis, Lord Voldemort and Harry’s final battle alongside his headmaster and mentor Albus.


“The Sentinel” written by Lee Child/Andrew Child (Bantam Press)

In the 25th Jack Reacher novel, it is a new dawn for our hero where he finds himself in a no-name town in Nashville, Tennessee stepping in to right the wrongs done to a band of musicians. Packed with action, fresh and perfectly plotted.


“V2” written by Robert Harris (Hutchinson)

“V2” written by Robert Harris (Hutchinson)

A Sunday Times Best Historical Fiction Book of the Year:

An immersive thriller set against a tense historical background.  In 1944,Rudi Graf has help create the world’s most sophisticated weapon, the V2 ballistic missile and is ordered by Hitler to fire these at London in vengeance.  Second World War buffs will thoroughly enjoy V2.


“Girl, Woman, Other” written by Bernardine Evaristo (Penguin)

“Girl, Woman, Other” written by Bernardine Evaristo (Penguin)

Winner of the British Book Awards Fiction Book of the Year 2020 and Joint Winner of the Booker Prize 2019.

This novel follows the lives and struggles of twelve very different characters, mostly women, black and British. They relate their stories across country and through the years. Generations of women and the people they have loved and unloved. Heart breaking, hilarious and honest.


“Troubled Blood” written by Robert Galbraith (Sphere)

Troubled blood is the next thrilling instalment in the highly acclaimed bestselling series featuring Comoran strike and Robin Ellacott.

A mix of supernatural eeriness and head-scratching mystery with a juicy whodunnit at its core.


“Hamnet” written by Maggie O’Farrell (Tinder Press)

“Hamnet” written by Maggie O’Farrell (Tinder Press)

The winner of the Women’s Prize For Fiction 2020, Hamnet is an emotionally beautiful work of fiction examining the effects of love, death, and grief on family life.

Agnes, Hamnet’s mother is the main character of the book, that focuses on his short life and the aftermath of his death. It explores love, and a marriage once unbreakable almost torn apart by loss, it examines the strong bond between twins, and everyday domestic life that must continue. Hamnet is William Shakespeare’s son, whom one of his most famous works Hamlet is named after.


“Shuggie Bain” written by Douglas Stuart   (Picador)

“Shuggie Bain” written by Douglas Stuart   (Picador)

Shuggie Bain is Douglas Stuart’s debut novel and won the 2020 Booker Prize.

It is a gritty but beautiful novel based in Glasgow in the 1980s. It explores the affects of poverty and addiction and the bond between mother and son. Shuggie Bain, the main protagonist of the novel, is a fussy and snobbish boy, and is picked on by the miners kids for being different, but he believes, and hopes that if he tries hard to be normal like the other boys, he can help his mother break her addiction and leave the mining town far behind them.


“The Thursday Murder Club” by Richard Osman (Viking)

“The Thursday Murder Club” by Richard Osman (Viking)

Described as clever, moving and highly funny, this murder mystery has broken many records this year, as well as being the most requested book of 2020 in Westminster and Kensington and Chelsea Libraries!

Set in a retirement village, a group of elderly residents meet up weekly to examine unsolved murders. When a fresh murder occurs on their very own doorstep, The Thursday Murder Club cannot help but get involved and see if they can crack the case. With plenty of humour, this whodunnit is in the same vein as Agatha Christie, and with plenty of high-jinks, it is the start of a wonderful new series.


Would you like to borrow any of the books on our top ten list? Search our catalogue online here or click on the link below:

Books we love…

Men Without Women by Haruki Murakami

Men Without Women, by Haruki Murakami

This week, Richard from Brompton Library is reviewing Men Without Women, by Haruki Murakami.

Over to Richard to tell us more!

First published in 2014, and published in English in 2017, this collection of short stories shares its title with Ernest Hemingway’s second collection. But there’s precious little male machismo to be found here in these seven short stories by Murakami.  What you will find are some of those weirdly surreal conversations that recall earlier works like Norwegian Wood and After Dark. Tragedy and humor, the uncanny and the absolute ordinary go hand in hand.

The characters from these stories comprise students, ex-boyfriends, actors, bartenders, men, who, for whatever reason, find themselves alone. Take the story of Kino for example; ‘As he waited for his first customer, Kino enjoyed listening to whatever music he liked and reading books he’d been wanting to read. Like dry ground welcoming the rain, he let the solitude, silence, and loneliness soak in.’

Reading Murakami, I always get this sense of space and rumination, where you can almost catch yourself thinking.

 If, like Richard, you want to be spellbound by Murakami’s enchanting literary style, check out Men Without Women from one of our library branches today.

A full list of our sites and opening times can be found here.

Be the Light in the Darkness

“Be the light in the darkness” is the theme for Holocaust Memorial Day 2021, 27th of January.

The theme encourages everyone to reflect on the depths humanity can sink to, but also the ways individuals and communities resisted that darkness to ‘be the light’ before, during and after genocide…We can all stand in solidarity. We can choose to be the light in the darkness in a variety of ways and places – at home, in public, and online.

For more information about this and to find out more, please click here.

To commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day, Chelsea Library held a virtual Chatterbooks last Saturday, reading the novel Friedrich, with a group of local children.  Ten copies of this poignant book were bought, giving an opportunity to our young readers to read it.

Hans Peter Richter‘Friedrich’

Superb, sensitive, honest and compelling

Hans Peter Richter wrote his novel ‘Friedrich’ in the style of a memoir. When the book was published in 1961, it was one of the first German books to deal with the Nazi period.

It is about two German families, who live in the same apartment house. It is the story of friendship of the non-Jewish narrator and his Jewish neighbours. ‘Friedrich’ begins in 1925, when the narrator was born, and ends in 1942, when he is 17. It takes place during the period when the Nazis came to power and into the early years of World War II.

“Before every genocide, perpetrators divide society into those considered worthy of human treatment, and those who are not. Distortions are deployed using propaganda and stereotyping to identify and victimise a specific group (or groups), followed by discrimination – often enshrined into law. The darkness leading to genocide also causes deep emotional trauma. For those affected, fear, hopelessness and dread all have a profound and long-lasting impact.”

This is exactly described in Hans Peter Richter’s novel.

A snowy day in 1929, the narrator is five years old and watches from his window Friedrich and his mother playing in the snow and making snowman. He is begging his mum to hurry up, so they could go downstairs and join the Schneiders. Eventually, they are ready, just about to leave, when this incident happened. The landlord, Herr Resch insulted the child, as soon as Mrs Schneiders went inside, and the five-year-old was on his own. The narrator’s mother did not say anything comforting to Friedrich or to her son, just to move away from the window. Neither did she want to be associated with the Jewish family (hence her delaying getting ready), nor did she want to get into trouble with their landlord.

Richter’s style encourages the reader, not only to learn about growing up in Nazi Germany, but to develop a nuanced view of the characters and circumstances of the period. The novel provides an accessible and complex picture of the issues of this period, tied to a historically accurate chronology.

Since the narrator and Friedrich are two, eight year-old boys, young readers more readily engage with them. As the boys grew older, the situation in Germany was getting worse.

This extract from “The Ball” (1933) illustrates that the boys were eight years old.

“Initially the Schneiders, the Jewish family, are much better off than the narrator’s family but gradually their lives become restricted and diminished, economically, politically, and socially. During this period the overwhelming majority of Germans came to believe in and support Hitler and the Nazi Party. The vast majority of Germans were neither sadistic nor perverted; they were normal people in extreme circumstances. The narrator’s father joins the Nazi Party and the narrator joins the “Jungvolk” (usually called “Hitlerjugend,” or Hitler Youth) and participates in Kristallnacht. One of the core issues that Friedrich allows students (readers) to explore is how, and why, the narrator and his family become Nazis.

As the events and incidents unfold, told from a boy’s point of view, we see the confusion and misunderstanding about the changes in society under the Nazis, and wonder who, if anyone, attempted to understand where things were heading.”

(Museum of Jewish History, Teacher’s Guide)

I would like to express my gratitude to Carla and Maximilian Lubin, our regular Chatterbookers, who read the novel and recorded “Potato Pancakes” and “Snow” for us to share with our readers.


Zvezdana, Chelsea Library

Books we love…

Lee Lawrence’s ‘The Louder I Sing’ is the bookies favourite for the Costa Book of the Year! 

The Louder I Sing by Lee Lawrence

Over to Pauline to explain why this is such an interesting book! 

The Louder I Will Sing by Lee Lawrence 

Wow! What a book! 

“The more you refuse to hear my voice, the louder I will sing.” 

Taken from the Labi Sifre song (Something Inside, So Strong), these words resonate throughout this powerful story of racism in Britain, injustice and truth. 

Lee Lawrence is the son of Cherry Groce, who was wrongly shot in a police raid on her home in 1985. These events lead to the Brixton riots, a culmination of repeated attacks and harassment by the police on the Black community in Britain at this time. Lee was 11 years old. His mother was left unable to walk and as a direct result, sadly, died of her injuries. 

Lawrence speaks of these events and the fight to get justice and tells the story in such a way that will resonate. The book unfolds in different chapters, After the shooting and Before

Lawrence relates what happened prior to The Metropolitan Police’s fateful raid on a family home with very little intelligence or knowledge.  Mistaken identity, wrong information and what happened after, offer a visual picture. The Metropolitan Police had never officially admitted that they were responsible for Cherry Groce’s injuries at the time. Would this ever change? Lawrence’s struggle to get justice gives you a positive, honest edge on events. He also offers context. 

The story is never slow, and you are carried by the author’s voice. It is like as if he is in the room with you. One discovers more about these shocking series of events and about his mother, a person in her own right. More than just another casualty, a real person with thoughts, a history and what she meant to those around her. 

The reader also discovers what happened afterwards to Lee Lawrence and the family. A positive, inspiring story, the rebuilding of lives and how that day in 1985 still impacts and is important today.  

Powerful! Unforgettable! 

If like Pauline, you were touched by Lee Lawrence’s story, why not borrow a copy from one of our branches?

Search our catalogue online here:$002f$002fSD_ILS$002f0$002fSD_ILS:1318987/one?qu=the+louder+i+sing


Holocaust Memorial Day

27th January is Holocaust Memorial Day, on which we remember the victims of the Nazi Holocaust and of the genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur. The theme this year is “Be a Light in the Darkness”, with a focus on those people who risked their lives to resist evil. We have many books in our Special Collection of Biographies about rescuers, who took unimaginable risks on behalf of their fellow human beings, knowing that discovery meant death (you can see a selection of them in this picture).

One of our books about a rescuer has a special significance. It was donated by our very own Library Customer Service Officer at Kensington Central Library, Besart Zhubi, and is My Life Under the Nazi Occupation by Mimi Kahmi Ergas-Faraxhi (Shkup, 2018). I spoke to Besart about the book, and what it means to him:

CJ:  Can you tell us a bit about the background to this book?

BZ: I never knew my maternal grandmother well – she died before we had time. We escaped Sarajevo in 1992 when I was 6. A genocide was being planned to eradicate all those of Islamic heritage. A civil war was raging. The government considered us stateless. We arrived in London and the UK gave me a new home.

Nenedaja (Grandmother or literally the mother of my ‘maternal uncle’) died in 2001. But my mother kept her memory alive, often telling me stories of Mimi. Mimi was the woman Nenedaja would say was her Jewish friend in Albania. “Mimi had the most amazing voice. Mimi would sing so beautifully”.

Fast forward a few years and Facebook was ubiquitous. I set out on a mission to find Mimi. Mimi had died, but I found her daughter Drita (Ita) Bartova. Drita means light in Albanian. It amazed me to discover my mother’s history and mine too. Drita told us about this book! The North Macedonian Cultural department sponsored it as a recognition of the role Albanians played in protecting Jews.

CJ.  Can you describe the situation in Macedonia during the Nazi period and how it affected Jewish people?

BZ. Much of the Balkans had come out of imperial domination from the Ottoman empire. The interior was underdeveloped, and this was especially true of North Macedonia. By 1941 the Axis powers invaded. Collaborationists filled train loads of Jews for transportation to death. The only refuge was Albania, conquered and ruled by Italians. Italy – while thoroughly Fascistic – was less concerned with Jews earlier on in this period, though later this changed, and the Albanian government had a certain amount of lee-way to protect Jews.

The Ergas-Faraxhi family recognised that if they stayed in North Macedonia, they would die at the hands of Nazis and their collaborators. It’s also important to note that a resistance developed in Bulgaria later on, and in Serbia. However, Albania was the only country in mainland Europe to experience a rise in the population of Jews during the period of the war, due to the number who sought sanctuary there and were helped.

CJ. What can you tell us about your grandmother and her family?

BZ. My Grandmother, or Nenedaja, was a young girl from a wealthy family of many years standing, with an incredible history of trading with their own ship. She was a pioneer. In her community most women were illiterate. Her father forced her to go to school and join the anti-Fascistic league. She was to learn to read and write–and my mum tells me that Nenedaja was so ashamed of this! She cried for being forced to go to school. Traditional culture viewed women’s education as unimportant. But Nenedaja persevered. She became committed to the Partisan cause. She learned to read, write and use a typewriter. It sounds utterly trivial now, but there wasn’t a single woman in her home city of Ulqin that could read, write and type. She read widely, but mostly communist propaganda. She taught other women to read too.

CJ. How did your grandmother get to know the Ergas-Faraxhi family?

BZ. Under Ottoman rule, Jews could work in whatever business they wished, whereas they were traditionally forbidden to join guilds in Christian Europe, where many were desperately poor and were subject to regular pogroms and murder. This rampant and poisonous level of antisemitism was relatively absent in the Ottoman empire and so Jews were integral to life in Albanian cities. (Before WW2, King Zog – absolute monarch of Albania – was eager to encourage Jewish specialists to move to Albania to help develop Albania. King Zog would never return as Albanian Communists took power.)

Now, my grandmother spent much of her youth in her family’s compound in Shkodra, Albania. Mimi Ergas-Faraxhi, her husband and her daughter (Drita) moved in next door. My grandmother, naturally curious about the new family, visited and became friends with Mimi who posed as Albanian – but they were refugees from Macedonia and when they revealed they were Jewish my Great Grandfather promised them complete sanctuary and safety. Mimi and my grandmother became good friends and my Nenedaja and her cousins would try their best to cheer her spirits as news came of what was happening to Jews and to her family–in Macedonia. Mimi described being invited to a wedding at the ‘Shurdha’ household (my grandmother’s maiden name). Mimi described it as a lavish occasion with each table having its server. Mimi would have baby Drita over to my grandmother while Mimi took a rest. It was a close friendship formed in trying times.

CJ. Your grandmother’s family helped Mimi, her husband and baby daughter Drita to hide. Do you have any thoughts about what might have informed their courageous behaviour?

BZ. The Canon of Leke Dukagjini codifies Albanian custom in an ancient manuscript dictating how Albanians should behave. We treat guests with the utmost esteem. In Albanian custom, we treat a guest as a young king. The householder would rather die than hand over a guest to his enemy.

CJ. What kind of practical help did your grandmother’s family offer the Ergas-Faraxhis?

BZ. Italian and later German soldiers raided and interrogated the wealthier families; soldiers extorted the local population through raids to find weapons and hidden Jews. These raids were the norm – to seek Jews and the resistance. My grandmother’s father often paid off soldiers. In terms of physical help it was mainly financial. Milk, flour, food, and babysitting. Baby Drita was looked after by my grandmother and when raids happened they didn’t betray a single person, though if their complicity had been discovered they would also have been killed.

CJ. Did you grow up being aware of the story of what your forebears had done during the Nazi occupation?

BZ. No. I had no idea what my grandmother did during WW2. I became aware from relatives in Albania that she was in fact a spy for the Communists, giving the location of Italian, and then German troops who were being terrorised by Albanian partisans. Italy was invaded by the allies and Mussolini’s regime collapsed. Marshal Tito gave Nenedaja a medal in recognition of her efforts.

CJ.  It is fantastic that your research led to you and your mother actually meeting Drita, who was a baby when your grandmother helped make sure her family survived – can you describe what you felt? Can you tell us about the meeting with her in Israel, and about the inscription she wrote in the book?

BZ. It was incredible. I felt such a deep connection to my grandmother by meeting Drita. Drita kindly sent us the wonderful and heartbreaking tale written by her mother. She inscribed her mother’s memoir of her experiences, including being helped by our family, saying “Meeting you has been an incredible stroke of luck, and very special for me. Our mothers would have been glad to know….and perhaps somewhere they are.”

CJ. What do you think is the significance of this story, and why do you think it is important to remember stories like this?

BZ. Well, it’s a story unique to its time and place. But, ultimately it’s a universal story because it’s about friendship, survival and the capacity for human kindness and barbarity. It’s a story that Jews, Muslims, and Christians can live happily side by side together. It’s a story of courage in the face of barbaric crimes, and of survival. It’s interesting for me, but there are countless other tales of bravery. History has erased Albanians. It’s a source of great disappointment. I fear that history repeats: first as tragedy, then as farce.

Books we love…

This week one of our kind customers Ana has provided us with her review for the book ‘The Five: The Untold Lives of the women killed by Jack the Ripper by Hallie Rubenhold’, over to Ana to tell us more! 

Book cover of The Five: The Untold Lives of the women killed by Jack the Ripper by Hallie Rubenhold

‘While the mystery surrounding Jack the Ripper has captured the British imagination since the first killing, this is the first book which focuses solely on the lives of the women who fell victim to the Ripper. Each of the five ‘canonical’ victims are allotted their own chapter in which Rubenhold paints a vivid picture of their upbringing, their family, their romances and heartbreaks, and finally the circumstances which led them to Whitechapel at the cruel end of their lives. With the evidence presented (of which there is a surprising amount) we are forced to question what we take as fact about these women and why it is that we were led to believe certain myths. The most famous of these myths being that they all worked as prostitutes.  

As far as history books go, the Five does not require any prior in-depth knowledge of the era or even of the Ripper mythology. Each chapter sweeps you up in the narrative of its female lead, and leaves you feeling shaken each time you remember how her story ends. Rubenhold successfully humanises these women, bringing them to the forefront and pushing the Ripper back into the shadows.  

Beyond a Victorian sensationalised of a serial killer, we might wonder how a greater interest in the people who kill over the people who are killed affects media today. Overall, a very enjoyable and important read for anyone interested in history, true crime, or the representation of women. ‘ 

Have you read this book? Do you agree with Ana? Let us know in the comments section below! 

If the cases of Jack and Ripper fascinate you and you enjoy reading True Crime stories, why not check out the book from our catalogue? Available as a paperback, ebook and audiobook. 

Books we love

Happy New Year everyone! 

This week, Richard from Brompton Library will be reviewing Reality Is Not What It Seems, by Carlo Rovelli.   

Over to Richard to tell us more!  

The book opens with: ‘We are obsessed with ourselves. We study our history, our psychology, our philosophy, our gods. Much of our knowledge revolves around ourselves, as if we were the most important thing in the universe. I think I like physics because it opens a window through which we can see further. It gives me the sense of fresh air entering the house’.  

Reality Is Not What It Seems is a popular science book that attempts to convey the childlike wonder of physics, often by discussing scientific concepts in terms of the arts – unusual for a scientist- and thereby attempting to recognize mutual concerns shared by both the sciences and the humanities.   

Rovelli starts the book with the Greeks, moving swiftly between writers and thinkers like Democritus and Lucretius, Galileo and Dante, Einstein and Primo Levi before arriving at current ideas in Quantum physics, where the universe appears to exist not as objects, but rather as events.  

If, like Richard, you’re interested in the symbiotic relationship between the arts and the sciences, or just want a different way to understand physics, this book could be for you.  

Why not borrow it from our Click and Collect service and discover a world among our own you never knew existed!